we have not met the enemy, and he is us
Post #623 • September 13, 2005, 7:31 AM • 110 Comments
Knocking the art world has become the latest art world fashion. I am not referring to the voices of dissent that have been heard for decades from artists and critics who operate at the margins. What's going on now is that a certain disaffection and even disgust has become an insider's badge of honor, a mark of sophistication, so that artists and critics and curators who frequent the art fairs and auctions where new stars are crowned can be heard bemoaning the corruption of the scene. ... What is troubling about such complaints is that they are almost exclusively focused on the social mechanisms of art: fairs, auctions, prices, publicity. Art itself hardly enters into the discussion; and when it does, the works of art are interchangeable, impersonal, of as little value in and of themselves as a pile of plastic poker chips. Everything is merely product; the art is in the deal. And the attack on the art of the deal becomes a new form of deal-making. This suggests a confusion so profound that the people who are complaining may well not have the faintest idea what is really troubling them. Beneath all the hipper-than-thou bravado, I sense a bottomless uncertainty.
In Miami you have the artists, a few amateur galleries, a few slightly professional galleries and collectors with amazing private collections, but no audience and no academia, and therefore no dialog. Nothing is ever written down or even remembered after it is over. The community thrives on the "new" and "the next" - the foundations of which is nothing more than a sunny outpost from which some collectors and fair organizers have decided to set up camp. I see very little investment or faith in Miami as an actual place of philosophical endeavor or of artistic discovery, while it is that kind of place to the artists who live and work here. Eventually, through the persistence of the artists who make this a permanent home and a culture of conversation, artistic exploration and context, Miami's art community will develop independent of the convention center and the real estate developers.
I present you with a brain teaser: are Jed Perl and Cooper talking about the same thing, or is Jed Perl essentially talking about Cooper?
As someone who has been knocking the art world since he began writing, I feel a little vindicated to find myself so far ahead of the curve. But to hear this message coming from Cooper surprises me, because his work figures in the collection of the Rubells and the gallery of Snitzer. (Hold your groaning, people; I have some fact-based ovservations to make.) The Rubells' renovation of the old DEA warehouse on 29th Street into their dream home practically kicked off the gentrification of Wynwood, and Snitzer faithfully involves himself in these big convention center thingies that roll through here every winter. So I vote for the latter, but I don't really know; I don't have access to Cooper's head or anything. After opining the above, Cooper rightly upbraided his interviewer when he asked about his favorite restaraunt, but I wonder whether he thinks his work somehow plays against newness and nextness, because it neatly fits in with a non-art art style that certain collectors enjoy; I imagine that they think of it as the very picture of progressiveness.
An aside regarding the house that Rubell built, related to the title of this post - the owners had the following exchange with Alfredo Triff, with some imaginary impertinences by yours truly:
AT: You were sort of the first to move to the block. Is that art savvy, business savvy?
M: It's necessity savvy. We came here for a real-estate opportunity initially.
D: [Interjecting] It was not. As far as Wynwood? We said, "We have to find a facility." We had looked all over Miami. We knew what we were looking for.
M: It was the building.
D: Well, it was the building and the context; they both make the right feel. ...
AT: You were here through the arts explosion and in a way a part of it. How does it feel to be a catalyst?
M: It feels great, but we are also very involved with the universe of art; we have relationships with all these artists and countries.
D: I hope the neighborhood doesn't change. We don't want this to become a huge mall or condo canyon. The development needs to take that into account.
M: I'm concerned that artists will be pushed out. Purvis used to live nearby. The development may turn all this into a place that doesn't feel good for art anymore.
F: In that case, do you catch your handsome visages in the bathroom mirror and say to yourselves, "There goes the neighborhood"? "Midtown Miami will consist of 3,000 condominium residences, rental units, a hotel and street level shops and cafes." One realtor expects that two-bedroom apartments will go for somewhere between $300K and a half-mil, well out of the range of artists. They're selling it all as the development in the new arts district, with copy and signage about comely creative moneymakers who control their time and working lives in a manner that practically no one does outside of academia - like you folks, if you modelled for a living. Don't you have something to answer for, here?
For the record, I largely agree with Cooper. I personally invest little faith in the Miami art world, for the reasons he cites: our permanent ahistorical state and the elevation of newness to an automatic virtue. I think we make progress here in spite of what's going on with the increased attention and activity, not because of it. As for "Miami as an actual place of philosophical endeavor," I already know from blogging what happens when you challenge local art and what few things people are saying about it - you win a role as a thorn. So will mere persistence on the part of artists cause the city to develop as an art center? Well, if I had to put my money on something, I'd put it there. But a sure bet would require evidence that the artists examine the extent to which they cause the stasis, by their own lack of self-awareness, by not thinking things through, by their attempts to achieve originality by imitating contemporary models, by their willingness to go along with the hyperbole. The real art project requires deeper inquiry, a process that demands forward and backward looking at the same time. It also demands that you recognize when you yourself have become the problem.